Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What's Going On?

Below is a very quick snapshot from Communications groups ... perhaps a conversation starter for you and your child?

Grade 8:
We're reading and discussing Pete Hautman's National Book Award winner, Godless. What happens when a teen jokingly creates a new religion and people get swept up in it? It gives us plenty of issues to talk about, from peer pressure to power and organizations and is a good prelude to the 8th grade focus on Civil Rights, later in the year. These students are also writing a screenplay, details to follow! Students have also been sharing their memoirs with me. Much good conversation about writing, which is, of course REWRITING.

Grade 7:
What makes for a good character? Does characterization lead to plot? Students have been doing some character invention, as well as analysis. The short story, A Mother in Mannville, by Marjorie Rawlings, is rich with example and inspiration. Students have also been working on their "passion essays."

Grade 6:
We're deep into a unit I call "evolution of language."
Why does language change? How? What makes a word a WORD?
 If you have a few minutes, please watch this video of The Three Little Pigs told as a Shakespearean would....We'll be wading around in this unit for a while. Stay tuned for more particulars. Ask your child about portmanteaus! And, if you have been called a currish dizzy-eyed boarpig lately, well, sorry about that...Shakespearean insults have been very popular...

Grade 5:
What is metaphor? We're exploring it in poetry, in my picture book The Sailor's Book, as well as in the iconic "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King. The students are writing metaphor haiku and have been published on this venerable site, Family Travel Haiku, complete with editorial comments. Visit the "Read Haiku" link to see our work. 

Grade 4:
At YES, we've been doing a mix of warm-up writing exercises, short story reading (ask about the aliens and how your child voted, and WHY), as well as having fun with my ancient typewriter. 

Don't forget our GT Open House, at HMS, November 18th, 6:30 - 7:30 in our library.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hitting the Ground Writing

What a glorious tumult is the fall. We're hitting the ground writing (and reading and discussing and so much more!) in the HMS and YES Communications groups. More on specific units and activities soon....

For now, two housekeeping details:

  • Save the date for the Annual GT Open House, Wednesday November 18th, 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. in the HMS Library. This evening is designed for parents/guardians of kids receiving direct GT services (grades 4-8). Come find out more about how we support the needs of GT identified students here in Yarmouth. Learn about some of the unique social/emotional traits of the gifted and how you can find resources for raising gifted learners.
  • Do you have questions about GT? We have a revamped website! Please enter the portal under INSTRUCTIONAL SUPPORT and wander around (links appear under the Chapter 104 - GT header).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear

We always have a warm-up  when we meet - calisthenics of the mind. Last week, at YES, we honored National Limerick Day, during which we tried our hand at writing our own limericks. We kicked it off, of course, with that master of nonsense, Mr. Lear. This week, I stumbled across a Calef Brown book (one of my favorite illustrators) devoted to that champion of ridiculousness himself: Edward Lear. As I read one of his poems, How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear, the third grade students "caught" interesting vocabulary and wrote it down. Here are the words they found and the book they came from, His Shoes Were Way Too Tight. Enjoy some whimsy today!

The words...

and the book!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Haiku for You

In our quest to honor spring and luddite ways, the fifth grade group has commandeered the old announcements board (thank you, Mr. Brann). Wedged in between Great American extensions and so much more, we find time for haiku. Daffodils bloom!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

As Seventh Grade Zooms By....

The purpose of the altered book unit was to investigate what a book could suggest beyond the literal. How might it transform itself?
Students explored various themes. You’ll find their works of art on display the last week of April (in our library) and below, in this rather pell-mell slideshow.

Can you match the artist to the work?

Other highlights of 7th grade Communications groups recently include much personal writing and sharing, as an offshoot of the 7th grade unit on short stories,, as well as a foray into chess (inspired by Amy Tan’s masterful short story, The Rules of the Game). Some of us are more strategic than others….(oh why can’t I think more than a move ahead?). We've also explored obfuscation.

Artist's Statements/Altered Book Unit:

Fly away with your books.-Sadie C

Characters in books can be so vivid; it is as if you are standing next to them. In his altered book, “Bad Men.. Even worse Images” O’Donnell has compiled a group of people, whom you would not like to know of, let alone stand next to. O’Donnell’s book includes many of the world’s most vile and catalytic people including Mao Zedong, Stalin and Hitler. This Avant-Garde work will change the face of dictatorian art. A real pleaser.

Writing and racing have something in common, sometimes you get stuck in the ruts. Instead of trying to get out, ride the ruts. It’ll get you going faster. -Elizabeth Ralph

My collaborator and I have transformed our book into a unique scenery. It is meant to represent a garden. Now that I think of it, books and gardens have quite a bit in common. While a garden grows plants, books grow knowledge. Both are filled with beauty and life. Admire the lanterns, swim with the fish. Let your imagination run wild, picture yourself walking through the garden we have created.
  • Emi

When my collaborator and I began this project we designed it to challenge the possibilities of altered books (a slight overstatement).  To more accurately put it, we wanted to create a unique creation.  So we added lanterns, living plants, and a fish pond.  Maybe this demonstrates how a book can let your imagination go wild or simply how words paint such vivid pictures.  Our garden in a book could represent whatever the imagination allows.  And imagination has no boundaries.  Creating this altered book has not been an easy process but it’s certainly been an enjoyable one.  We hope you enjoy our display.
  • Cloe       

(A note on the collaborators' book: it featured three LIVE fish - visible in the documentation - although they were not present for the library display due to concerns for their health.)

This altered book shows how a plot is like a mountain. You are following the trail of the story up to the climax, and then sled easily all the way down the other side. Along the way up you experience obstacles, but you eventually reach your goal point. ~Ella Buchanan

Books always have surprises, twists, and turns.  Who knows what you can discover when you open up a book?  Dragons, mysteries, and adventures await!  Pick up a book now and find out for yourself!

No matter how locked the books are, there is always a way in and out.
-Audrey Welsh

The purpose of my Altered Book, “Not Diary,” is to draw attention to the over-sharing nature of our culture. In this simple albeit glittery  book, I invite people to enter their (unsigned) secrets. Flip through the pages and enjoy finding out some things you might be better off not knowing. If you decide to add your own secret, don’t sign your name. You might even want to disguise your handwriting….Be secretive, right out in the open.

You will also notice a few books from the past, including my own "the nature of music" and the masterful butterfly book of yore. We had fun with this project and hope that others may rescue dump-destined books and make some art.
-Ms. Agell

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

From the Fifth Grade Group

Hello from the wilds of fifth grade. Here, we have finished our P42V Unit (poems for two voices), which started with the study and performance of Paul Fleischman's masterly insect poems from Joyful Noise and culminated in the writing of our own poems. The students chose their best ones to illustrate and include in the anthology. The color one will reside in room 104, but each poet brought a copy home. Ask to see it! On a luddite note: spiral bounding proved quite fun. Ask your poet about the bone crunching sound that big machine makes.
It's hard to capture all we do in a period. We always start with a warm-up, which is anything word related...calisthenics for the verbal parts of our brains! Then, we have NQQ - Notes, Quotes, & Questions, during which each student shares a note, a quote, a question...and, not infrequently, a personal writing project. I am with my tribe!
We seem to also have a bunch of artists present. They've helped to illustrate the covers for the THEME notebooks I shall be using with all grades: what is literature ABOUT? How does it help us become more fully us?
In the picture, you will also see Maria Testa's lovely book in verse, Something About America, It tells an immigrant story and is set in Maine. What does it mean to emigrate? What if you have to flee? What does it mean to be American? We'll be reading this after our break.
I also see these students for Worldly Wise 7 vocabulary and spelling extensions. It's an honor to spend time with students for whom this is a serious undertaking.
More news forthcoming after the break. We started our year with metaphor and haiku, and will spend some time curating HMS's brand new (not yet revealed) Haiku Shrine (a cousin of the Poem Booth's). Ask your student if you want more information on this!
The crocuses tell me it's truly spring and I think that I dare to believe. (Go Sox!)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sixth Grade Wishes You to Know

In the sixth grade, we have been studying the evolution of language. How did English get to be the way it is? Is language alive? What is etymology? Syntax? Can you make a portmanteau? How does a word catch on? What happens when a language dies?

To further this exploration, we've written soliloquies based on the "All the World's a Stage" declamation in Shakespeare's As You Like It. If you'd like to see our attempts, visit this page.
Here are some of the attempts, lounging in the Poem Booth for public viewing. (You may be asking yourself: how is this related to the evolution of language? Well, we were inhaling Shakespearean English and breathing the tone of it into our own...or not.)

We've "translated" the poem Jabberwocky using Humpty's helpful hints from Lewis Carroll's original Through the Looking Glass. In the process of sharing our translations, we discovered that everybody came up with a different emphasis and also that Robert Frost was right: Poetry is what's lost in translation. (This is also where we found the portmanteau idea: do you know that "slithy toves" are toves that are both slimy and lithe?) We also discovered that we were able to accurately label nonsense words with parts of speech we all agreed on. Fascinating.

I also shared examples from some my books translated into French, with the help of a student also fairly fluent in the language: I Wear Long Green Hair in the Summer became L'ete au bord de la mer. Are they even the same book? Where did some of the salient details go? What happens if everything hinges on translation, such as in the United Nations? Ah, such precarious an art it is.

Next up, we'll read some Hamlet, both in the original and a modern translation, just to see how it compares. Along the way, we read parts of many different interesting articles, including this recent one from The New Yorker, on the disappearance of languages. It asks if a dying language can be saved? What is lost when a language disappears? Art, cosmology, cool much.

Our language investigation has been suspended at times. For a long while, the students were filming an original screenplay - Kid Kool! We downsized it to a movie trailer but then discovered what was perhaps inevitable: it's hard to produce something HUGE like that when you meet only once a week. Still, what good experiences we had with the cameras and editing equipment (thanks, computer lab and Mr. Arsenault!). Students also took the time to voyage into the world cultures research - always an amazing journey.
Next, we'll plunge into some Hamlet, both in the original Shakespearean English, as well as in a modern translation. To be, or not to be. Is that the question?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Sprang Sprung

It's been a long time since anybody told you what was going on, here in 104. Soon, there shall be posts with pictures of altered books, demonstrations of soliloquy prowess, and more!
For now, hello and happy spring from 104.

This room is such an incubator of ideas. Fingers fly over keyboards. People argue (in a good way). Many go out on tangents never to be seen again. No, wait: we do see them.
There is a crack in the wall that may be extra-dimensional.
Perhaps the atmosphere is well captured in this white board expression by an 8th grader:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Writing Lives When Others Read It!

This is such a writing rich environment. I feel so fortunate to be in a place where the voices of so many writers instruct our children, and I am here referring to our mostly "choice based" middle school reading program.
It's what I tout, when "outsiders" compliment me on our district's FOURTEEN awards at the recent Scholastic Writing Competition (statewide), including some Gold Keys. If you missed it, please visit the HMS School News.
Writing, of course, is not all about competitions (helpful as they are for jazzing us up, and for - sigh - teaching us about rejection). It's also about writing daily and just plain old reaching an audience.
Sometimes, that audience is international! For example, the current issue of KIDSPIRIT magazine hosts two pieces by HMS students.
Check out the thought-provoking cartoon, Unfiltered Sunlight, by our own Dylan Doyle.
Then skip to the articles on climate change, by authors from Pakistan, New Zealand, India, and far-flung parts of the USA, including Yarmouth Maine (Samson O'Donnell!)
Then sit down and write something. Why not capture thoughts, commit to them, let them boss you around until you gain the upper hand and then shape them into something the world has never before read? (Yes, it's hard.)
Ask your child: what are you writing? Chances are they won't want to share (perfectly normal), but why not ask?